The University of New England
I'm a Street Science S.I.S.T.A (Sisters Inspiring Science and Technology Australia)

Are you eligible for Breaking Barriers Category:

SUMMARY

My name is Laura Andrews and being a Street Science ‘SISTA’ means I am an advocate for STEM education. I work diligently to improve the learning outcomes for the many young women and students that I have the opportunity to inspire daily. I have been employed for the past five years at Street Science, a Queensland based business, and our impact now reaches hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and members of the scientific community every year. Since 2018 my role has been to visit kindergartens, schools and community events to present Australian Curriculum aligned, fun and interactive shows and hands-on workshops to children aged 3yrs through to 16yrs. I am currently employed as a Senior Presenter, and I take pride in not just my own presentations, but I also mentor young and upcoming science communicators and show them the ropes as they learn their trade.

BENEFIT – A description of the benefit of your work to Queensland (max 500 words)

As a Street Science SISTA, I am a member of a team (mainly comprised of women) that engages and teaches primary school aged girls with the goal of increasing their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in order to pursue further STEM education. As part of this project, primary school aged girls are engaged and educated with the goal of increasing their engagement in STEM, therefore leading to further study and increased employment opportunities for female professionals in these sectors.
 Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in 2020, I have worked tirelessly to develop an approachable and accessible way for Aussie kids to remain engaged in their science education journey by providing innovative and high quality educational opportunities, regardless of a student’s geographic location. The physical resources I have created are backed by a range of digital resources presented in a hybrid manner and is a first in Australia. This resource has since gone on to win a number of prestigious awards including the HSBC Award for Outstanding Business Innovation in 2020, and was named as a ‘Top 10 Student Engagement Product 2021 Asia Pacific Region’ by Education Insights Magazine. In addition to taking a lead role in the production of Street Science’s award winning Classroom Kits, I also played a lead role in the production of the Street Science ‘Virtual Classroom’ in April 2020. These daily broadcasts allowed children across the country to engage in meaningful science lessons at 10:00am daily throughout the country’s longest lockdown, and provided relief for parents as they wrestled with the pressures of ‘working from home’.
In 2018 and 2019, Street Science produced and ran Brisbane Science Festival at the South Bank Piazza. In 2019, this three day event kicked off with secondary students gaining admission to a careers day. As a part of this experience, I was able to interact with hundreds of young Queensland ladies in their senior schooling years, answering questions in relation to starting a STEM career and sharing my personal story. This then extended into the general public for the next two days. Events like these utilise massive partnerships with other STEM organisations, and I had the opportunity to network first hand with industry and university institutes as well as a number of small businesses.

ROLE MODEL – Why do you think you are a good role model for women and girls aspiring to work in STEM? (max 500 words)

I am currently working on developing a brand new traineeship program with my current employer which is aimed towards upskilling people who are currently working in education and have an enthusiasm and genuine love for science, to get them ready to become a science communicator in the Street Science SISTA program. This traineeship program is designed to get women (who are just like me) prepared and ready for a career in science communication. The program leans towards engaging people who have a Diploma in Education level or higher (the vast majority of which are women), and by the end of the traineeship they will have the tools, knowledge, support and guidance through further education in science fields to continue working within the industry. I will be leading this program which provides support to women in STEM and brings more women into the field of engaging girls in science across Queensland. 
Being of an Early Education background meant that when I started my sci-com journey in 2017 I was able to utilise my experience and knowledge to develop an early education and kindergarten program. This is linked to the Queensland Kindergarten Guidelines and Early Years Learning Framework. Since the program’s release in 2019, we now have consistent communities of kindergartens requesting us to visit their centres on a regular basis. The feedback I receive is that with children being exposed and engaged from such an early age, a curiosity is ignited that follows them throughout their lifetime. I believe getting young girls engaged and excited from as young as three years old greatly improves their learning outcomes and their love of the natural world, well into the future.
The Barriers to Participation in Engineering and the Value of Interventions to Improve Diversity study by Professor Deborah Corrigan and Dr Kathleen Aikens identifies both STEM identity and attitudes and interest in STEM as two major factors influencing girls’ engagement in STEM. Through science outreach I aim to address these barriers, with my visits to schools, kindergartens, community events, and even birthday parties. I work with tens of thousands of Queensland kids every year, and I passionately share my stories and encourage young ladies to buck the curve, and engage with science as a potential career option. 
Being a mentor and a female scientist and educator who the next generation can look up to means a lot to me personally. In my younger years, I struggled to find a connection with other approachable young female scientists in the community and therefore didn’t consider STEM as a viable career choice. My current role as a science communicator focused on science outreach is providing access for young Queensland children to interact with a positive role model, and gain an unrivalled look at what a STEM career could look like. I strongly believe that I am making a real difference to STEM engagement for women here in Queensland and am helping to address the current deficit of female representation in STEM careers.

ENGAGEMENT – Describe any STEM promotion or engagement activities that you have undertaken, including both scientific and non-scientific audiences, particularly with women and girls (maximum 500 words)

Since 2012, Street Science has provided engaging science experiences to children through curriculum-based school incursions. As a senior member of this team I aim to address the barriers to girls in STEM by training a number of presenters (mostly female) who each go on to inspire girls in STEM. Our most prominent impact is here in South East Queensland where we work with Queensland children and teachers in their classrooms every day.
For the last three years I have helped develop our National Science Week show which is produced annually and relates to ASTA’s yearly theme. Last year in 2021 I was able to perform this show for the very first time within the theme Foods of the Future: Different by Design. Young women in particular can develop unhealthy relationships with food from a young age and suffer from negative self-esteem. In presenting this show, I have seen how it has created positive mindsets which will form healthy habits regarding young ladies’ relationships with food for years to come.
I have also worked closely with Juiced TV at The Lady Cilento Children's Hospital on numerous occasions to provide fun and educational entertainment and relief to children and families who need it most. These live presentations have been made available and free to the families attending the hospital, and they have also recorded segments for their inhouse television channel. One segment organised by the hospital was for women who love science, and it was hosted by a young lady staying in the hospital at the time. I have also collaborated with the Mik Maks to produce a science based educational segment for their early years online children's show.
In 2019, I was approached to team up with The Whytehouse Education Group and the Tech Dome in Penang, Malaysia from the interest generated by the Early Education Science program I had created. I developed an Australian-themed interactive show alongside the company Founder, Steve Liddell, called “The Aussie Science Experience''. The Whytehouse Education Group organised their kindergartens to travel to the Tech Dome specifically to watch these shows. The impact I have here inspiring Queensland’s students is recognised internationally, and my influence on our youth is internationally sought. We have since collaborated with Whytehouse Education group again during the pandemic to stream science activities to live audiences across Malaysia.
I am continuing to improve my science knowledge through ongoing formal university study which I juggle alongside my 4 days per week of science engagement.  Being named a 2022 Women in STEM Awardee would provide an incredible boost personally and help me to continue to inspire and mentor young women in STEM for years to come.

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